Common Eviction Mistakes Rental Landlords Must Avoid in Memphis

Evictions can be pursued for many reasons, but the most common reason you’re likely to evict a tenant in Memphis is nonpayment of rent. 

It’s a complicated process, even if you’re prepared and organized. The laws are specific and detailed, and you need to follow them to the letter right from the beginning, otherwise you’re likely to have your eviction case thrown out. 

You cannot evict a tenant without proper notice and without going through the courts. 

While the process is fairly uncomplicated and direct, there’s still a lot of room for error. Mistakes are easy to make, and we can tell you that usually, the mistakes are expensive. 

Because eviction is so serious for both tenants and landlords, we decided to put together a list of the most common eviction mistakes we see property owners make. Here’s what to watch out for and how to avoid the mistakes that so many other landlords are making. 

Rushing Into an Eviction 

A huge mistake is rushing into an eviction. You don’t want to head off to court and file the paperwork a day after your rent is late. 

Rent collection policies need to be consistently enforced. Your tenant should understand all the consequences for not paying rent on time, including the potential for eviction. 

However, it’s in your best interest to work with your tenant in order to get them up to date on their rental payments. This will save you money and a lot of frustration. Talk to your tenants. Communicate about what you need from them. Do some investigating and find out why the rent is late. Are they struggling just this month or has a job loss or a divorce caused a change in financial circumstances? You need to know this before you proceed. It could mean the difference between a lengthy and expensive eviction and a simple payment arrangement. 

Eviction should be a last resort. If you end up having to evict a Memphis tenant, it means that communication has broken down completely and there’s no way to salvage your landlord and tenant relationship or the tenancy. 

Improper Tennessee Lease Agreements

It’s going to be very difficult for you to lawfully evict a tenant if you don’t have a lease agreement in place. 

When you let your tenant move in without a signed lease agreement, it could take you some extra time to evict that tenant. Not having a lease agreement is a problem, and not having the right lease agreement is also a problem. If you downloaded a lease template from the internet, you may not have a document that’s legally enforceable in Tennessee. 

The lease should support your eviction process, not hinder it. A strong lease that’s compliant with Tennessee law will indicate:


  • What your rental collection policy is.
  • What happens when a tenant doesn’t pay rent. 
  • What you’ll do to recover rent that is owed.
  • How the lease agreement may be canceled if rent is not paid on time.

The judge will want to see a lease when you show up in court, trying to get possession of your property back. If you don’t have one, things can get complicated. 

Use a lease template that’s both legally enforceable and legally compliant in Tennessee. It’s a mistake to head into an eviction without a strong and enforceable lease agreement

Attempting a Self Help Eviction

A self-help eviction is when a landlord attempts to evict a tenant without going through the legal channels that are required. 

It’s easy to become frustrated and even angry when rent isn’t paid and you have a tenant who is essentially living in your home for free. You need that rental income, and it’s a natural response to want to hold your tenants accountable to the lease agreement and their financial obligations. 

But, you need to remain professional and you need to follow the legal process. 

Here is what you cannot do when a tenant isn’t paying rent or you’ve decided you don’t want them in your property anymore:

  • You cannot change the locks on them.
  • You cannot turn off or restrict the utilities. 
  • You cannot confront the tenants in their home and demand that they leave. 
  • You cannot move their personal belongings out of the property. 

These things will get you in trouble and only make the eviction process worse for you. 

Avoid the urge to take drastic (and illegal) actions. When your tenant is not paying rent, follow the eviction process. If your emotions are likely to take hold, talk to a Memphis property manager or an eviction attorney who can handle all tenant communications and the court process for you. 

Not Filing a Termination Notice

You need cause to terminate a lease agreement and evict a tenant. 

Nonpayment of rent is cause, and so is a lease violation or evidence that a violent crime or drug-related offenses have occurred inside the property. 

Before you move to eviction, you need to terminate the tenancy. That requires a 14-Day Notice. 

You must serve the tenants with a 14-Day Notice that informs them they have the 14 days to either pay rent or move out. If they do not pay and they do not move out, you will terminate the tenancy and file an eviction lawsuit with the court. 

You’ll need a copy of this notice when you do get to court. 

Not Being Prepared for Court

Show up in CourtWhen you finally have the opportunity to show up in court and tell the judge why your tenants should be evicted, make sure you’re prepared. It’s a mistake to just show up and expect the court to trust your word. You need to bring copies of:

  • Your lease agreement
  • Your 14-Day Notice
  • Any other correspondence regarding overdue rent
  • Your accounting ledger that shows unpaid rent accounts

Be ready to demonstrate that you have exhausted every process for getting your tenants to come into compliance and pay the rental amount. When you follow the law to the letter, you’ll get the outcome you want.

Possibly the biggest mistake you can make when evicting a tenant in Memphis is doing everything yourself. Talk to a property manager in Memphis or an eviction attorney so you can be sure that all the bases are covered. Don’t make those simple mistakes that can easily set you back and lead to larger errors. 

If you need help with eviction, please contact us at RiverTown Realty. We’d be happy to help you navigate the process.